As a travel writer, I have to nail my colours to the mast upfront and admit that I have never ventured south of Commissioner Street for an extended period. Yes, I paid visits to the Turfontein Race Course many years ago and I even got to spend time at Santorama Miniland, when it was still a viable tourist attraction. But stay overnight or for a weekend? Never. Given the fact that many people are trying to get away without “getting away”, and for research purposes, I felt that I had to take the plunge and immerse myself in the South for a couple of days. 4 days to be exact and all of them would be spent at the Thaba Eco Hotel and Spa. Given the fact that their official website only gave me an inkling of what to expect, I put the hotel location into Google maps and drove the 30 minutes from our suburb to the South and an unexpected gem that awaited my arrival.
The reception area, with decor that I was not expecting. And staff that was both friendly and efficient. An attitude that I discovered was pervasive throughout all the staff at the hotel. For me, the interaction with the staff reminded me more of encounters that I have had with the staff in upmarket game lodges. Nothing was too much trouble. Need an extra key card? No problem. Need late checkout? Let us just check availability…not a problem. And my best was being greeted by name by almost everyone that I dealt with. Huge congratulations to whoever does staff training, it certainly caught the attention of this jaded travel writer.
Our room was situated on the side of a hill named Thaba. It makes sense doesn’t it, naming the property after its location. Virtually hidden by the mainly indigenous foliage, it looked East, and the view of the sunsets from our balcony was spectacular. It was here that my wife and I would be spending the next 4 days.
The interior. One large room that has all the attributes that are required for an extended stay. A large and comfortable bed, a desk for me to turn into office space, and a separate toilet and bathroom. The latter has both a bath and a shower, while I discovered that the former had a socket outlet on the wall. I have to say that when my wife and I left, we still had not figured out why there would be a socket outlet in a toilet. One of life’s unanswered mysteries?
The corner of the adjacent accommodation caught my attention. The glass and concrete looking very futuristic again the green of the vegetation.
This retro corner in our bedroom was one of my favourite areas. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this ‘spoke’ to me and my sense of old mixed with new. To my mind, decor, like art is subjective and needs to be enjoyed in the context of its surroundings. That being said, I believe that upgrades are planned, and if this chair is fated to go into storage, I would REALLY like it for my home office (I hope that hotel management take notice of that request)
It took me a while to spot this Southern Bou Bou calling from a tree in front of our balcony. This is a first for me and it made the visit just that little bit more special. The birdlife in the gardens and adjacent game reserve is plentiful, and if I remember correctly over 200 species have been counted on the property.
Looking out over some of the hotel buildings that are hidden in the thick vegetation that covers Thaba(as it is affectionately known by staff and locals alike)
Just one of the spectacular sunsets that we witnessed. I have only ever seen colours like this when I have been in the bush. As a Southern friend said to me” Things always look different from the South” and he was correct.
The hotel is very particular about its adherence to strict COVID-19 protocols in all public spaces. When you arrive for any meal at the main restaurant, your hands are sprayed and your temperature is recorded. It reminded me of when we went on our first cruise and we had to sanitize our hands before entering the dining room. “Washie, washie or no eatie eatie” was the mantra of the onboard staff. The first few times it seemed strange, but we quickly got used to the ritual and it is that exact same feeling that COVID-19 is making us aware of when entering public spaces. Masks are compulsory and the staff was wearing them correctly. All the breakfast food that would normally be spread out buffet-style are now individually packaged. And I have to make mention of the waiters that took care of us. Steven and Gift were competent, professional and made our breakfasts memorable for all the right reasons.
I did try to start my breakfast in a relatively healthy manner before the ‘Full English’ arrived. Are yogurt and dates healthy? I like to think that they are.
I wondered what the ‘E’ stood for until I was informed that it stood for Eco. Being a non-drinker, my visit here was purely for research purposes until I was informed that tapas and drinks had been laid on for me and my wife.
The upper deck of the EBar. There are several seating areas scattered at ground level, but this first-floor haven was exactly that…a haven. With awesome music and gas heaters to keep us warm.
A look at the seating area in the afternoon before our evening visit. There are several seating areas, all of which were sanitized between guest’s arrival and departure.
A delicious tapas platter that consisted of a variety of ‘snacky’ things. From chicken wings to prawns and calamari and a variety of other bite sizes snacks to be enjoyed with either alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.
Dawn over the South…as seen from the road near our room. I went out, barefoot and in just a gown in order to capture this moment. Sunrise happens so quickly that the moment can be lost while getting dressed and putting on shoes. I figured that there would not be any guests out at this time of the morning, and I was right. I encountered one staff member who politely said “Good morning” and chose not to make comments about my attire.
Back to this restaurant for our Friday Date Night. It seems to be very popular with the locals as the couple seated near us lived just a few km away. They had come for dinner and were then returning home.
A shared dessert (for research purposes you understand) to end off the evening…
This is the new location of the Spa, which has a stunning view across the vast expanse of the game reserve as well as the southern suburbs that lie beyond. I was told that the vista was the opening shot of the tv series Isidingo-The Need. And who am I to contradict that.
The adjacent game reserve is home to several species of endemic plains game as well as a plethora of plant and grass species and rock formations to interest both amateur and professional geologists alike. The game drive was conducted by the hotel ecologist, Travis, and his assistant, Zane. Being the only guest on the vehicle we were able to bumble around and share information and stories.
One of the more unusual species that can be found on the property, The Black Wildebeest. Not usually found in the Lowveld reserves that I visit on a regular basis.
To find out more about what this stunning venue offers, click on the logo to visit their website.
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